Blocking mu-opioid receptors inhibits social bonding in rituals

Sarah Jane Charles, Miguel Farias, Valerie van Mulukom, A Saraswati, Fraser Watts, Simon Dein, Robin Dunbar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
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Religious rituals are universal human practices that play a seminal role in community bonding. In two experiments, we tested the role of mu-opioids as the active factor fostering social bonding. We used a mu-opioid blocker (naltrexone) in two double-blind studies of rituals from different religious traditions. We found the same effect across both studies, with naltrexone leading to significantly lower social bonding compared with placebo. These studies suggest that mu-opioids play a significant role in experiences of social bonding within ritual contexts.
Original languageEnglish
Article number20200485
Number of pages5
JournalBiology Letters
Issue number10
Early online date14 Oct 2020
Publication statusPublished - 28 Oct 2020

Bibliographical note

© 2020 The Authors. Published by the Royal Society under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, provided the original author and source are credited.


  • mu-opioids
  • naltrexone
  • ritual
  • ritual bonding
  • social bonding

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)

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